Studying medical engineering is no easy thing – there’s a lot of hard work and intense learning involved. Most medical engineering graduates then go on to find jobs in that industry (because why else would you spend time and money on a course), but University of Hong Kong (HKU) graduate Yeung Chi-yuen – also known as Siu Yuen – decided that he wanted to become a full-time singer-songwriter instead.
Young Post caught up with Siu Yuen, 25, to talk about when and why he decided to make such a big change, and about his debut album, To Myself.
“When I was at secondary school, I had an old guitar at home and I would play it a little but I soon gave up,” says Siu Yuen.
After receiving some disappointing A-level scores, he decided that he would study for an engineering associate degree at Hong Kong Community College. But it wasn’t an easy adjustment, and he soon found himself turning to the musical instrument to help ease the intense pressure.
“I was so dedicated to [getting into] university that I spent most of my time studying,” he says.
“I had all of three friends and a guitar for the whole of those two years.”
All those late-night study sessions paid off though, and in 2011, Siu Yuen was accepted into the HKU medical engineering programme.
Siu Yuen fully embraced university life, spending his three years not just studying, but also busking and making friends.
“University is not just about education, it’s about developing as a person. I made more than three friends at university, and I found out where my passion truly lies,” Siu Yuen says.
It was all about being in the right place at the right time. Siu Yuen was elected as leader of the musical group for HKU’s 100th anniversary celebrations, and a Hong Kong legend just happened to tun up to the party.
“I was lucky enough that HKU alumnus Sam Hui [Samuel Hui Koon-kit], the God of Song [heard my music]. He invited me to play in seven shows at the Hong Kong Coliseum over the course of two years. That was a really special experience.”
Though he has now released an album, Siu Yuen continues to busk and share his songs online. But, he says, not many people see his approach to performing and sharing music online as “professional”.
“To them, I’m a ‘second-class’ musician, and that’s sad.”
Siu Yuen joined JLMusic – a local music brand created by one of his HKU friends and this year released his first album, To Myself.
Rather than fund his album directly, JLMusic turned to crowdfunding, and sought help from netizens. “We wanted to know how much money people would be willing to pay for a song,” Siu Yuen says.
“We decided to charge HK$1 for each song. The album has five songs, so the minimum was HK$5, but if people wanted to then they could pay more.” It worked: they successfully raised more than HK$30,000 from the online sales.
“A few of them [the donators and contributors] gave HK$1,000,” Siu Yuen says, adding he was very touched. “I know my music has a certain value.”
The musician has gone from strength to strength since joining JLMusic. Last week, he took part in a Thursday Live show at Taikoo Place, one of a series of lunchtime concerts.
“Office workers have a lot of pressure [in their lives] and their lunch hour is the only
time they have in which they can unwind,”
Siu Yuen said.
“I hope that by performing at Taikoo Park I can help them relax. Music is all about pleasure.”